If longtime Pittsburgh employees are not on board with Mayor-elect Bill Peduto's plans for overhauling city government, they may have a chance to get out in advance. Those who choose to hang on may face a different work environment from the past.
"In 19 years I can count on one hand the number of people who have been fired," said the councilman and former legislative aide who becomes mayor in January. "That doesn't exist anywhere else. In my administration people will be expected to perform, not just show up."
As part of his transition into the mayor's office, Mr. Peduto on Tuesday introduced a bill to temporarily ease the city's pension eligibility rules.
Those whose combined age and years of service is 70 would be able to retire with a full pension, shaving 10 years off current pension requirements.
That could move up to 132 employees off the books and cost the city about $2 million in increased pension liability.
Mr. Peduto has reached an agreement with the pension fund; the city will pay any extra costs for employees who take the early pension option.
If city council approves the measure, eligible employees -- many of them senior administrative officials -- would have until Jan. 31 to take the offer. After that their jobs could be filled through a foundation-backed website called Talent-City.com that may start posting positions next week.
Longtime employees "will have the opportunity to have a soft landing," Mr. Peduto said. "If they choose not to, their position could be eliminated, or they will be in competition on a national basis for the best talent" to fill their jobs.
Mr. Peduto's transition chairman Kevin Acklin notified the city's fiscal oversight board of the proposal in a breakfast meeting last week.
The Intergovernmental Cooperation Authority's chairman Nicholas Varischetti said the board needs to pore over actuarial data and study the impact on the city's legacy costs before taking a stand on it, but signaled that the state-appointed overseers want to have a positive working relationship with Mr. Peduto, after a rather frosty one with outgoing Mayor Luke Ravenstahl.
"Right now the ICA is not in a position to take a stance on whether we will support [the pension change] or not support it," Mr. Varischetti said, "but we really appreciate that Kevin reached out to us last week and gave us a heads up he was doing this."
Mr. Peduto said the proposed pension change came out of discussions with Mr. Ravenstahl's finance director Scott Kunka. Under the legislation, which he said has the backing of the Ravenstahl administration, an employee who, for example, is 55 and has 15 years of city service could retire five years earlier than expected. All employees will have to be at least 50 years old to be eligible, instead of the 60 under current law.
Mr. Acklin said he does not expect the proposal to cost the full $2 million estimated, and added the city could see cost savings through eliminating or combining some vacated positions.
Mr. Peduto said the measure was meant to echo his transition announcements last week, when he asked for a hold on new city hiring and contracts; requested that appointed members of city boards voluntarily resign; tapped a diverse set top executives for his cabinet; and asked at-will or non-union city employees to re-apply for their jobs via the foundation website.
"The message is this is an entire overhaul of the mayor's office. We're going to have performance-based measuring for each department and for at-will positions have more of a disciplinary effect to get things done," Mr. Peduto said Tuesday.
Longtime employees eligible for the early retirement proposal who decide to stay on "should prepare to get ready to work in January under a new system of greater accountability and transparency," Mr. Acklin said in a statement.
Asked if the measure was meant as an olive branch to Ravenstahl partisans who might not want to work under the new regime, Mr. Peduto said it was rather designed for those who have served the city for decades longer.
"This is more for the Caliguiri people," said Mr. Peduto, referring to the late mayor who served from 1977-88.
Tim McNulty: email@example.com or 412-263-1581. Follow the Early Returns blog at www.post-gazette.com/earlyreturns or on Twitter at @EarlyReturns.
Jon Schmitz: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1868. Twitter: @pgtraffic. First Published November 12, 2013 8:48 AM